The countries of Western Europe – from Italy to Denmark - have considered the rest of the world as their possession since 1494 when Roman Catholic Pope Alexander VI divided it into the Spanish half and the Portuguese half. Now in this century the West European driven climate change movement has taken upon itself the duty of saving the Earth from certain destruction. After all, who else could undertake this heroic task? If you don't do as the Western dominated UN decrees, your suffering will only become worse.
The IMF and many super-rich investors are prepared to invest trillions of dollars in this noble effort, but one XR member has provided us with a Manifesto which presents the process of saving the world in a very different light. Its not really about investment dollars to combat climate change. Stuart Basden proposes a moral crusade to change the ways we relate to each other as humans. We must change many of our traditional but “toxic” patterns of behaviour because they have cause the climate crisis we now face. Instead of saving the souls of Earth's heathens, Basden wants to save their lives by getting them to adopt the moral code he recommends. Is it a surprise that the people of the world can only be saved by adopting a moral code which happens to be the officially accepted code of Western Europe today? Who else besides a Western European would set about proclaiming a moral code for the whole world?
STUART BASDEN'S MANIFESTO
Extinction Rebellion (XR) is not a climate change pressure group. XR does not want to change your mind about the climate. XR wants to change your government – regime change - so its followers can save the world. XR is a political crusade and they have an ideology. The theoretical framework for XR is explained by Stuart Basden. He is a co-founder of XR who has written an article entitled “Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the Climate”. His views may not be shared by every member of XR, but we need to look carefully at his Manifesto.
Basden is a committed true believer, like Greta. While Greta is supported by people like Ingmar Rentzhog, the founder of Laika,a prominent Swedish communications and consultancy firm, Basden has been living off his savings while working for the climate movement.(1) In this respect he is also different from the better known Dr Gail Marie Bradbrook and Julian Hallam. They are well paid organizers and advisers for XR. The movement wants to make “profound changes to an economic and political system which millions of people rely on to stay warm, and obtain basic things like food and water”, even though they don't mention the proposed changes all taken straight from the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals”.(2)
Extinction Rebellion co-founder.
Basden speaks with authority to those supporting XR.
“I was one of the 15 people in April 2018 who came together and made the collective decision to try to create the conditions that would initiate a rebellion. I was a coordinator of one of the original five working groups, and I’ve been organising with XR day-and-night since then. And I’ve been in RisingUp (the organisation from which XR has emerged) since the first RisingUp action in November 2016.
“And for the sake of transparency: that previous paragraph is all about me ‘pulling rank’ — I’m trying to convince you to listen to what I have to say…”(3)
Like many others, Basden believes something is terribly wrong with our world. His article is presented as My Struggle, his fight to understand the ills of modern society and find a solution. He believes we have created a “toxic system” and the climate crisis is merely a result of this bigger problem. "The climate’s breakdown is a symptom of a toxic system that has infected the ways we relate to each other as humans.”(4) Global warming is not just caused by burning coal for energy. Global warming is the result of a deadly combination of values which must be changed to save us from total destruction.
This provides him a theoretical framework for a revolutionary movement to save the world. The method is to cure the causes of the toxic infection in society, not just alleviate the symptoms. To focus on the climate’s breakdown (the symptom) without focusing attention on these toxic delusions (the causes) is said to be a form a denialism. He identifies these as the main constructed delusions:
As with any such ideology it has the appearance of plausibility, but if we think about what he says a very strange world view comes to light. It can easily appeal to today's young people who, thanks to our neo-liberal education system and media, have no understanding of history or the world beyond their schoolyard and have not been trained to think critically about anything.
BASDEN'S MEDICAL MODEL OF ANALYSIS
He clearly states that we live in a “toxic” system that has “infected” the ways we relate to each other as humans. Toxins in medicine and biology are poisons which can damage or kill organisms. Organisms that are infected are at least threatened by a bacteria or virus. Toxins don't infect because they don't replicate in the organism in the way that infections do. Basden is a typical 21st Century thinker who is reluctant to openly make value judgements. This is what lies behind his somewhat confused medical terminology.
When he talks about “white supremacy” or “patriarchy” as “toxins” he is talking about patterns of behaviour and thought in society. What he calls “toxic” is what people 100 years ago might have called bad, wrong or evil behaviour. Some of the patterns of behaviour condemned by previous generations include murder, rampant criminal gangs, gambling, prostitution and drug addiction. While we still find such behaviour in society today none of them have made it to Basden's list of “toxic” or bad ways we relate to each other.
The behaviour which he sees as unacceptable and damaging to society betrays an focus on issues which are a long way from what most people would have thought was so vital to the survival of human society. Those who are not completely lost in sport or celebrity culture worry about the threat of nuclear war or a Depression as bad as the one in 1929. Unemployment, static wages and rising prices are part of the day to day lives of many people in the West and much of the world. These social ills do not attract Basden's attention. So what are the dangerous “toxins” that threaten life on Earth today?
HOW DID THE WORLD BECOME A TOXIC SYSTEM?
According to Basden (Western) Europeans are responsible for the current state of affairs. “As Europeans spread their toxicity around the world, they brought torture, genocide, carnage and suffering to the ends of the earth.”(6)
“Euro-Americans violently imposed and taught dangerous delusions that they used to justify the exploitation and reinforced our dominance, while silencing worldviews that differed or challenged them. (...) It’s worth naming some of these constructed delusions that have been coded into societies and institutions around the world.”(7)
This may strike some as reasonable until we reflect a moment on world history. Does Basden really think that before the rise of European civilization and European colonial conquests the world was a peace-loving Garden of Eden?
Was Genghis Khan a European? Doesn't the history of Ancient China, India, Africa or the Middle East demonstrate that torture, genocide, carnage and suffering were not invented by the European invaders? The only real difference between the New Conquers from Europe and the previous empire builders is that the Europeans had mastered the art of sailing ships anywhere in the world. This meant they could invade distant lands and transport their booty half-way around the world. What do Basden or the high school students who follow XR actually know about the thousands of years of history BEFORE the Western European conquests? Not much it seems.
If Basden's dangerous delusions have been “coded” into societies and institutions around the world it was not done by Europeans. Western Europe has indeed spread its own special invention, capitalism, around the world, but their other cultural influence is far less than imagined by Basden. Many cultures discovered usury and the buy low/sell high method merchants and traders become rich. However the power of industrial capitalism was devised in Western Europe and has been the open secret of its success. However Basden shows no interest in capitalism as a “toxic” social practice and instead concentrates on his special list.
WHITE SUPREMACY IS A CODE WORD FOR RACISM BY “WHITE” PEOPLE
“The delusion of white-supremacy centres whiteness and the experience of white people, constructing and perpetuating the myth that white people and their lives are somehow inherently better and more valuable than people of colour.”(8)
White supremacy is a well-known Western European attitude, but does Basden really believe that the white Europeans are the only people on Earth who look down on other humans as inferior? Mao Zedong actually believed the Chinese were genetically different from and superior to Europeans. Many Japanese consider that Koreans and Chinese are inferior beings. People from India hate all British people and have no respect for them. Such “racist” attitudes towards other humans are not the confined to European societies, and many of these attitudes have been around long before Europeans could read and write.
Basden also seems to ignore religious prejudice and hatred which has generated wars and massacres around the world up until the present day. Are these not “toxic” or perhaps not important? What about hatred or hostility toward one's political opponents? Almost any kind of difference can generate hate and this seems to be a general problem for all societies at all times. Europeans are not angels, but surely “racism”, religious prejudice, politically inspired hatred and violence are not confined to and introduced by just one part of the world.
PATRIARCHY HAS BEEN THE DEFAULT POSITION FOR MOST CIVILISATIONS
“The delusion of patriarchy centres the male experience, and excludes/hinders female assigned people from public life (reducing them to a possession or object for ownership or consumption). Patriarchy teaches dominating and competitive behaviours, and emphasises the idea that the world is a place of scarcity, separation and powerlessness.”(9)
Basden says patriarchy excludes females. Some like Robert Graves believe that more than 2000 years ago in the Middle East there were matriarchal societies in which women had either an equal role with men or even a dominant position in society. However a quick look at world history will show that in Europe and the Middle East if such societies ever existed they disappeared by the time of the Ancient Greeks around 500BC. The Ancient Greeks were openly patriarchal with attitudes towards women much like the more traditional societies in the Middle East today. Ancient China was completely patriarchal – remember mandatory foot binding - and the position of women in India today is so bad that rapes and beatings of women are largely unreported and seldom punished.
In case anyone believes the treatment of women by European men is “better” that the treatment of women by men in India, we need to look more carefully at this important mistake. It is true that the laws put in place to protect women in European countries are generally enforced against European men better than similar laws are in India. However unlike the men of India, European men are able to travel widely around the world. The two most important ways European men visit non-European countries is through military service or sex tourism. US soldiers are seldom punished for the abuse of women in countries where they are based. In areas experiencing military conflict such as Iraq, soldiers are seldom reported for rape or murder of women, let alone punished. Some effort has been made to police Western sex tourism, but when local officials are bribed to allow this lucrative practice to continue, it is almost impossible to stamp it out. What this means is that men's behaviour is more or less the same across the world. If laws protecting women are enforced, men will usually respect women and children. On the other hand, if they are not enforced, whatever their cultural background, some men will abuse them because they know they can get away with it.
Certainly the Colonial British were completely ruthless with the people of the Indian subcontinent, but does Basden think that the British invaders forced their patriarchal attitudes on men who otherwise had nothing but the deepest respect and concern for their wives, daughters or mothers? Around the world many societies are still patriarchal and European societies are generally the least patriarchal of all. What this means is that many people in the world do not accept that patriarchy is “toxic”. Basden and many other Europeans reject it but to many people in the rest of the world it is normal.
When Basden says “patriarchy teaches dominating and competitive behaviours” does this mean that dominant and competitive women are part of the patriarchy? Isn't it more plausible to see dominating and competitive behaviour as a characteristic of humans and other animals? Such behaviour can be socially destructive and needs to be managed. Doesn't including them within the scope of patriarchy (rule of men) betray an assumption that women are different from men, not dominating and competitive? This looks like the usual male chauvinist stereotype that men are aggressive and women are passive. If we examine this anti-establishment ideology we find a deeply traditional view hiding under the guise of a radically different approach to the world.
EUROCENTRISM IS THE NORMAL PERSPECTIVE OF EUROPEANS, AMERICAN CENTRISM IS THE NORMAL PERSPECTIVE OF AMERICANS, CHINA CENTRISM IS THE NORMAL PERSPECTIVE OF CHINESE...
“The delusions of Eurocentrism include the notion that Europeans know what is best for the world.”(10)
This is perhaps the most interesting of Basden's toxic attitudes. Notice that Basden himself is European. Isn't Basden himself Eurocentric with his evaluation of racism or other forms of prejudice and patriarchy as toxic social relations? He is so imbued with European values he cannot even conceive that humans in other parts of the world do not accept his European toleration of difference and rejection of patriarchy. Why is it that traditional Indian and Middle Eastern wives regularly follow their husbands at a distance, even in the West? They don't accept our values, just as European couples regularly walk together when they visit India and the Middle East because they have different values from the local population.
All of us are born in a certain location, grow up and are educated in a certain culture. We automatically pick up the values and social practices of that culture. No matter how much self-examination we carry out we will probably never expose them all. Furthermore each culture works to protect and sustain itself. It is to be expected that Europeans are “Eurocentric”. They will view themselves and their history in a different way from Chinese, Egyptians, Iranians or Mexicans. There is no God's eye view of the whole world. Each of us in born with the obvious limitations of our own individual and cultural perspective. If Basden thinks he can transcend his own individual and cultural history, he is simply deluding himself that he can “know what is best for the world” better than anyone else. Do people from any other part of the world believe they “know what is best for the world” besides Western Europeans?
HETERSEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS HAVE BEEN THE DEFAULT POSITION FOR MOST CIVILIZATIONS
“The delusions of hetero-sexism/heteronormativity propagate the idea that heterosexuality is ‘normal’ and that other expressions of sexuality are deviant."(11)
Generally speaking the (recent) legal toleration of homosexuality and LGBT people can be found in European societies, Russia, India, China and South America. Consider this:
72 jurisdictions criminalise private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity. The majority of these jurisdictions explicitly criminalise sex between men.
44 jurisdictions criminalise private, consensual sexual activity between women using laws against ‘lesbianism’.
15 jurisdictions criminalise the gender identity and/or expression of transgender people, using so-called ‘cross-dressing’, ‘impersonation’ and ‘disguise’ laws.
12 jurisdictions in which the death penalty is imposed or at least a possibility for private, consensual same-sex sexual activity. At least 6 of these implement the death penalty – Iran, Northern Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.(12)
Most of these countries are in Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia. Remember that legal toleration is not the same as social acceptance. Even in European societies there is a significant minority who still do not personally accept anything except heterosexual relations.
If the only way to save all life on Earth from inevitable extinction, how does Basden suppose XR and its followers are going to eradicate the “toxic” hostility to homosexual relationships in the 72 countries where it is illegal? And within a time limit of 12 years? Would the carnage caused by invasions justify saving the lives of a few homosexuals who might have been killed or put in jail? A little thought would have helped Basden realize that if the survival of human societies on Earth require the eradication of this particular “toxin” then we are all truly f**ked.
CLASS HIERARCHY IS THE DEFAULT POSITION IN MOST OF THE WORLD
“The delusions of class hierarchy uphold the theory that the rich elite are better/smarter/nobler than the rest of us, and make therefore better decisions.”(13)
This is another definitely Eurocentric attitude. Is Basden aware of the traditional Confucian morality: The child obeys his parents, the woman obeys her husband, and the people obey their leaders? This is understood to be the essence of a stable and well-ordered society. Virtually all religious cultures teach the value of obeying one's superiors. Perhaps the only exception is European Protestants who place primary value on the individual's personal insight into God.
And how does Basden and others in the XR movement understand their new elite: Climate Scientists? The science is settled, there can be no debate. The certain knowledge of this elite leads climate activists to reject democracy as a political system. If ordinary people do not accept the superior wisdom of the climate scientists, XR must eliminate them from the political system. The political implications of the XR movement are examined by Naomi Wolf in this video:
Wolf examines the only publicly released document on the Green New Deal. The video is long but she explains that a central feature is the creation of a non-elected committee to oversee and implement the whole project in the USA. Nothing would be voted on by the House or Senate other then the legislation to establish this committee. So the Green New Deal would completely bypass all existing democratic control and enacted by self-appointed experts and business leaders.
Why have many politicians not jumped on the climate bandwagon? Because they are answerable to the public which XR followers takes to be either too lazy or ignorant to understand the truths spoken by Climate Scientists. Why is the push for radical change like electric cars found in the European Union and the UN? Because the leaders of these two political bodies are not elected by anybody in any country.
The idea that the best rulers for society are the wise (smarter) is as old as philosophy in the West. It is the theory behind Plato's Republic and the reason he had such hatred of the democracy in Ancient Athens. Basden only wants to replace the old members of the hierarchy with his new hierarchy of climate scientists and the creators of a “sustainable” world. People and their right to vote for their leaders just gets in the way of the unchangeable wisdom of the climate scientists.
What we see in this final “toxic delusion” is pure hypocrisy. Basden and the XR movement only want to change our current wise neo-liberal economic managers with wise crusaders - and investors - for a "sustainable" environment. The so-called climate movement is really demanding we replace democracy with the iron-fisted rule of the wise. This “Manifesto” is very dangerous indeed!
6. Basden only writes of “Europeans” but Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary etc. - countries in Eastern Europe – did not 'spread their toxicity' anywhere. The invaders were from Western Europe.